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Posted: December 02, 2008

High Blood Pressure Control More Elusive for Black Americans

Racial disparity in the control of high blood pressure contributes to the deaths of nearly 8,000 black men and women in the United States annually, according to a first-of-its-kind study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

The researchers, from the University of Rochester Medical Center, concluded that the deaths could be avoided or postponed if blacks had their high blood pressure controlled to the same level as whites.

 

"Disparity in the control of blood pressure is one of the most important, if not the most important, contributor to racial disparity in cardiovascular mortality, and probably overall mortality," said Dr. Kevin Fiscella, lead author of the article and associate professor of family medicine and of community and preventive medicine at the UR Medical Center.

 

"If we, as clinicians, are going to reduce cardiovascular and stroke-related deaths, we need to pay attention to all the barriers to improving blood pressure control, particularly for minority patients" Fiscella said.

 

Although not clearly known, the likely causes of the racial disparity include differences in access to care, clinician management and communication, hypertension severity, and patient adherence.

 

"There is evidence from previous studies that access barriers and financial and interpersonal communication barriers affect the ability of black patients to get medical care or to take their medication as prescribed," Fiscella said.

 

The authors, in the first effort to quantify the toll of racial disparity in blood pressure control, call on clinicians, researchers, health care administrators, health care planners and policy makers to work together to gain a better understanding of the barriers faced by ethnic minorities.

 

The researchers analyzed data of 1,545 black adults and 1,335 white adults. The mean blood pressure among blacks with hypertension was approximately six mm/Hg (millimeters of mercury) higher than that for the total adult black population and seven mm/Hg higher than that for whites with hypertension.

 

A reduction in mean blood pressure among blacks to that of whites would reduce the annual number of deaths among blacks from heart disease by 5,480 and from stroke by 2,190, the researchers concluded.

 

"There is evidence for racial disparity in patient adherence to antihypertensive medication, including studies conducted within the Veterans Administration Health System, where fewer differences in access appear to exist," the researchers state in the article.

 

"Differences in adherence by race may be due to affordability of medicines, personal beliefs, anticipated adverse effects, and health literacy that disproportionately affect blacks. Although multiple causes may contribute to racial disparity in blood pressure control, this disparity is not inevitable. Disparity in hypertension control is significantly smaller in the Veterans Administration Health System, where access barriers are fewer."

 

Elimination of racial disparity in blood pressure control is an attainable goal, provided sufficient resources are available to discover and address adherence barriers, the researchers conclude.

 

(Article courtesy of ConsumerAffairs.com)

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